Pumpkins uncared, and revolver ready, on the 40th Anniversary of the original 1978 Halloween film, fans may be feeling a bit like Laurie Strode on the eve before a Halloween. Prepared but uncertain for whats coming.
Thankfully Jamie Lee Curtis and director David Gordon Green sat down on a cloudy Sunday evening earlier this October after a small screening of their new film to dive into exactly what this film is all about.
THE TRAUMA OF LAURIE STRODE
"There are three choices when you are traumatized." Curtis explains to a silent audience. "You can die from it, you can run from it, or it will effect you for your whole life until you face it. And those really are the only options. There’s no middle ground, there’s nothing else."
With the knowledgeable air reminiscent of someone speaking about an old friend, Jamie Lee Curtis sat on stage in an old auditorium at the 92nd Street Y with David Gordon Green in the chair next to her, as she drew the path that her character Laurie has taken over the last 40 years. "Halloween 2018...that was a movie designed for someone who had that trauma whose been running ever since. She changed her name, new location", her character was plagued by "alcoholism, dark thoughts, and dark shadows." All in response to being unable to deal with her own past. "But ultimately that end moment" of that film "she shuts the [school] gate. She throws the key away turns back and says ‘ok come on, let’s go’- was because [she's] dead. When you’re running, you’re dead, you have no life."
In the new film - a direct sequel to the original - director David Gordon Green took Laurie's character on a different path with her trauma. Instead of finding a broken woman running from herself, we find Laurie so utterly fixated on facing her demons that she is unable to do much else. “There is a moment in the 78’ film where Laurie is talking to Tommy, Lindsey, (the kids she was babysitting) and she is trying to get them to safety and says 'Do as I say' and there is a turning point from the academic, kinda suburban, normal every girl into an empowered authority figure." Green explains, "to take 'do as I say' to become more of a mantra in this film."
In fact, Green took that character moment, and made it the core foundation in building the Laurie Strode of 2018. Green continues, "take that strength and transition of character and put that mindset into 40 years of isolation, and what does that become?"
"When I start going back one day when I’m older than I already am, and I’m looking back at this whole experience..." Curtis begins to cry, but regains composure, "When I distill all of this, when all of this is said and done, you know we had this experience making it, it was very powerful, it was very emotional, the whole thing."
Taking the discussion of the film and bringing it back into context of the current cultural moment, Curtis expands, "Right now we are all talking about it, Christine Ford standing up with her hand, and everybody is talking about past trauma, burying it, hiding it, squishing it, silencing it, shutting it up. It’s amazing that this is the world where we’re talking about this movie, that at its core is about trauma, and trying to put a real face on horrific trauma."
For Curtis these themes were on her mind during filming, but were especially highlighted by fans during the press tour for Halloween. "There is a great pause in the movie making process, when filming is done,” Curtis explains, "while [David] makes his movie in the editing room, where we begin what I like to call ‘the Halloween Hustle’. Comic Con was the first Hustle."
The audience laughs, and Curtis begins her story, "We came out onto the stage and we showed a 6 minute reel. The lights come up and the first question was this guy talking about this experience that he had in a home invasion. And he thought about Laurie Strode and me!" Curtis stated with surprise. "I’ve been to Comic Cons before and Hall H is a fucking tough room and the place was silent. And this grown man started to sob at the microphone, saying the movie had saved his life because he had thought about Laurie Strode and what she would have done in this home invasion. And we are all just sitting there, he’s a stranger- I later joked that I had paid him, but I didn’t. What happened is he grounded himself in the trauma of surviving. The very thing we made a movie about, this man lived. And I literally got off the stage and went and hugged him. That was really the opening note of what now has become this symphony of zeitgeist- culture, and news, and women, and truth, and Me Too, and all of it is this big swirling thing about trauma.”
THE ALTERNATE OPENING THAT NEVER HAPPENED
In its early phases, David Gordon Green wasn’t certain he could get Jamie Lee Curtis to do another Halloween. “I went into this conversation thinking there is no way she is going to want to do this so I am going to have to sell it hard. So I went in there with this big song and she was like “just shut up and let me read the script.”
Curtis juts in, “Literally. And I read it, and I’ll tell you what sealed it in 5 pages, the original opening. Very early in the movie, Alison (played by Andy Madencheck) my granddaughter is running. She was jogging the way high school athletes run. So you get this tableau of Haddonfield Illinois, her running on a Fall morning, early before school. Finishing her run, goes into the house, goes upstairs into her room and opens the louvered closet door, and pulls the bare bulb light to illuminate her clothes. And in that second I was right back into the closet 40 years later with my granddaughter and I knew everything [David] was going to do. Like right away, I was like ‘fuck, that’s beautiful.’ No I mean really ‘thats beautiful, I’m back in the fucking louvered closet, but it’s my granddaughter.”
Halloween is in theaters nationwide, October 19th.